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Title: The seaboard : discreteness and continuity in musical interface design
Author: Lamb, Roland
ISNI:       0000 0004 5349 7209
Awarding Body: Royal College of Art
Current Institution: Royal College of Art
Date of Award: 2014
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The production of acoustic music bridges two senses - touch and hearing - by connecting physical movements, gestures, and tactile interactions with the creation of sound. Mastery of acoustic music depends on the development and refinement of muscle memory and ear training in concert. This process leads to a capacity for great depth of expression even though the actual timbral palette of each given acoustic instrument is relatively limited. By contrast, modern modes of music creation involving recorded music and digital sound manipulation sacrifice this immediate bridge and substitute more abstract processes that enable sonic possibilities extending far beyond the acoustic palette. Mastery in abstract approaches to music making doesn’t necessarily rely on muscle memory or ear training, as many key processes do not need to happen in realtime. This freedom from the limits of time and practiced physical manipulation radically increases the range of achievable sounds, rhythms and effects, but sometimes results in a loss of subtlety of expressiveness. This practice-based PhD asks whether it is possible, and if so how, to achieve an integration of relevant sensor technologies, design concepts, and formation techniques to create a new kind of musical instrument and sound creation tool that bridges this gap with a satisfying result for musicians and composers. In other words, can one create new, multi-dimensional interfaces which provide more effective ways to control the expressive capabilities of digital music creation in real-time? In particular, can one build on the intuitive, logical, and well-known layout of the piano keyboard to create a new instrument that more fully enables both continuous and discrete approaches to music making? My research practice proposes a new musical instrument called the Seaboard, documents its invention, development, design, and refinement, and evaluates the extent to which it positively answers the above question. The Seaboard is a reinterpretation of the piano keyboard as a soft, continuous wavelike surface that places polyphonic pitch bend, vibrato and continuous touch right at the musician’s fingertips. The addition of new realtime parameters to a familiar layout means it combines the intuitiveness of the traditional instrument with some of the versatility of digital technology. Designing and prototyping the Seaboard to the point of successfully proving that a new synthesis between acoustic techniques and digital technologies is possible is shown to require significant coordination and integration of a range of technical disciplines. The research approach has been to build and refine a series of prototypes that successively grapple with the integration of these elements, whilst rigorously documenting the design issues, engineering challenges, and ultimate decisions that determine whether an intervention in the field of musical instrumentation is fruitful.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: W200 Design studies